Tuesday, August 3, 2010
We stood along the tracks at 7:50pm with specific instructions to GET ON THE TRAIN. Since the train was coming from another station, it would be departing quickly. We had our groups together, memorized our couchette numbers and lined up in order. Ready. To. Go.
Problem #1: No Cabin numbers.
As we squeezed down the space, we quickly realized that the walls only marked seat numbers. The only seat numbers we had were 36 & 37. Two needles in a haystack that was leaving in 2 minutes.
Problem #2: We were going the wrong direction.
Other people had entered the train car from the other side and were now dragging their bags toward us in a frantic search for their sans-number couchette. The kids tell of one woman shoving them aside in order to get her kids and bags on board while yelling something in French about "going to the corner"! Rumor has it that one of the kids was shoved into the bathroom!
Then the train pulls away. Cabin found. All kids on board. A moment of calm.
Imagine Trent. Six foot six. Now imagine 5 other teenage boys. Stack them on top of each other with six bags. Now shove them into your closet. Close the door for 14 hours!
Problem #3: No one knows how to turn on the air.
So many people from all over the world piled into this car. A multitude of languages spoken and bathing habits. You've heard of Ratatouille, the hot French soup combining all sorts of flavors and fragrances? This is the night train.
There is nothing like being squeezed into a box in complete darkness with a train that rolls side to side, makes random stops, and often goes in reverse.
If you are ever offered the opportunity to "experience" a trip like this, I recommend you think on it.
Having spent a few of my younger years in Germany, I was completely blown away by the idea that we were walking around in East Berlin. Now, years after the reunification, you can still see the sharp contrasts in architecture. For the history buffs in our group, Berlin was the epicenter of World War II lessons.
The kids all seemed to love the city. They talk about the easy to use subway system, the countless cafes, and great shopping. Many of the kids rented bicycles, visited the zoo, walked along the artwork painted on still standing sections of The Wall, and shopped in the historic KaDeWe. A few of us even visited a relic of the Cold War - an underground fallout shelter.
With the night train on Saturday night, we were given almost another day to relax. We would need it.